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Towards a Community framework for electronic signatures

A common position on a proposal from the outgoing European Commission that would establish a legal framework for electronic signatures has been agreed by the Council of Ministers and will now pass to MEPs for their second reading.

Recognising that electronic signatures are ne...
A common position on a proposal from the outgoing European Commission that would establish a legal framework for electronic signatures has been agreed by the Council of Ministers and will now pass to MEPs for their second reading.

Recognising that electronic signatures are needed for secure electronic communication and e-commerce, the proposal aims to establish a clear framework which will encourage confidence and increase investment in these new technologies. The Council envisages that the electronic signature would have equivalent validity to the handwritten signature.

If adopted, the proposal would create a framework for the secure transmission of electronic commerce, stimulating investment and encouraging growth, competitiveness and employment.

Currently no Member State has set up a legislative framework for electronic signatures, providing an ideal opportunity to develop a harmonious legal framework at European level.

The proposed Directive lays down minimum requirements concerning security and liability that would ensure electronic signatures were legally recognisable throughout the EU.

Furthermore it establishes a legally recognisable system of electronic signatures where the origin of the data and the identity of the sender could be determined, with the ability to verify if the data has been altered.

A certificate identifying the signatory, which would be issued by a service provider, would accompany data. Under the proposal minimum liability rules would be established, in particular holding service providers responsible for the validity of a certificate's content. Safeguards would be put in place to ensure personal data used by service providers is protected.

The Council stated it would support the introduction at national level of voluntary accreditation schemes and an appropriate monitoring system to be adopted by Member States in order to establish public confidence.

The proposal also includes mechanisms for cooperation with third countries on mutual certificates on the basis of bilateral and mulitlateral agreements, thereby encouraging electronic commerce on a world level.

Following the adoption of the proposal an electronic signature committee will be established to clarify the requirements of the Directive and the generally recognised standards for electronic signatures.

Source: Official Journal of the European Communities

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